Testing Methodology

For those that didn't catch our brief word on our updated testing methodology from our SilverStone FT03 review, I'll give you a quick primer. After our first two case reviews since 2009 went over with mixed reception, we went back to the drawing board and worked up a better, hopefully more streamlined approach to case testing. First, we've standardized the parts we're using for case testing. For Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX enclosures, we're using the testbed I described in the FT03 review. For full ATX enclosures (e.g. mid-towers like the BUC and larger full-tower cases), we've kicked things up a notch. Below is the kit we're testing with; you'll see some overlap in a few places from our Mini-ITX board where the same components could handle the same jobs:

Full ATX Test Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-875K (95W TDP, tested at stock speed and overclocked to 3.8GHz @ 1.38V)
Motherboard ASUS P7P55D-E Pro
Graphics Card Zotac NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 (244W TDP)
Memory 2x2GB Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer DDR3-1600
Drives Samsung 5.25" BD-ROM/DVDRW Drive
Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA 6Gbps
CPU Cooler Zalman CNPS9900 MAX with Cooler Master ThermalFusion 400
Power Supply SilverStone Strider Gold 750W 80 Plus Gold

For full ATX cases, we need to know not only how well they muffle sound but also how well they handle overclocked hardware. The Intel Core i7-875K we're using can run at an overclock nearly 900MHz faster than stock (and with a healthy dollop of voltage under it to boot). While going for maximum thermals would probably involve using an X58-based platform, LGA1155/1156 tend to be more popular and using that standard gives us the flexibility to potentially test air- and water-coolers down the line. It also bears mentioning that when we test under stock settings, the DDR3 runs at 1333MHz; it only goes up to 1600MHz when we're testing with the overclock in place.

My primary concern involves the BIOS-based fan controls. ASUS offers a decent amount of granularity in controlling the CPU fan, but I'd like to know what you think the ideal settings are. I currently have it set conservatively, to try and keep the processor below 60C, which is how I'd likely set it for my own system. But how would you set it? Would you just use ASUS's default "Silent" setting? Would you set a higher temperature threshold? Let us know.

Our actual testing procedures are unchanged from the Mini-ITX/Micro-ATX testbed, so here they are again:

Acoustic testing is standardized on a foot from the front of the case, using the Extech SL10 with an ambient noise floor of ~32dB. For reference, that's a silent apartment with nothing running, testing acoustics in the dead of night (usually between 1am and 3am). A lot of us sit about a foot away from our computers, so this should be a fairly accurate representation of the kind of noise the case generates, and it's close enough to get noise levels that should register above ambient.

Thermal testing is run with the computer having idled at the desktop for fifteen minutes, and again with the computer running both Furmark (where applicable) and Prime95 (less one thread when a GPU is being used) for fifteen minutes. I've found that leaving one thread open in Prime95 allows the processor to heat up enough while making sure Furmark isn't CPU-limited. We're using the thermal diodes included with the hardware to keep everything standardized, and ambient testing temperature is always between 71F and 74F. Processor temperatures reported are the average of the CPU cores.

And last but not least, it's important we thank the vendors who made our testbeds possible.

Thank You!

We have some thanks in order before we press on:

  • Thank you to Crucial for providing us with the Ballistix Smart Tracer memory we used to add memory thermals to our testing.
  • Thank you to Zalman for providing us with the CNPS9900 MAX heatsink and fan unit we used.
  • Thank you to Kingston for providing us with the SSDNow V+ 100 SSD.
  • Thank you to CyberPower for providing us with the Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive, Intel Core i7-875K processor, ASUS P7P55D-E Pro motherboard, and Samsung BD-ROM/DVD+/-RW drive.
  • And thank you to SilverStone for providing us with the optical drive and power supply.
Assembling the IN-WIN BUC Noise and Thermal Testing, Stock
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  • Ammaross - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    "Oh yes, they must be stealing content. No one ever backups their DVD or BR collection, no one ever edits HD video"

    I fully agree. A single blu-ray disk takes up to 30GB to take a 1:1 copy. My DVDs run up to the 8GB range. Taking my entire DVD/BR collection easily fills a couple 2TB drives. It all used to be scattered on 1TB/1.5TB drives until I upgraded to a couple 2TBs. Where are the other drives? I left them in the machine for scratch disk and future storage. Yes, I do have home videos and the like that I keep too. Not quite to the space requirements of BR disks, but I don't like to store my videos in DiVX or such bad-quality formats (as opposed to lightly-compressed 1080p MPEG4).

    Oh, and the comment regarding photos, I'm a bit of a shutter-bug, and even my modest 8.1MP camera takes 3.4MB pictures. Pass them through Photoshop, saving the original of course, and saving in a 90% quality can bloat those to 6MB after touchups. I'd say there's a good 3GB per event I save. It all adds up.
    Reply
  • bji - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    Is it legal to 'back up' DVDs and BR discs in this way? I doubt it since it requires circumventing encryption mechanisms. I agree that it doesn't seem ethically wrong to back up something you own even if it is technically illegal.

    That being said, what's the point? Are these discs really so important that they need to be backed up? I've never backed up a DVD or Blu-Ray disc in my life and I've never lost or broken one either. I can't imagine wasting my time (and money) spending it backing up DVDs and Blu-Ray discs.

    But I guess that's beside the point; I asked for legitimate ways to fill up large amounts of hard disk space and I got at least one answer of something that is technically probably not legal but not so immoral in any case.

    So am I to believe that the vast majority of people who claim to need 8 or 10 hard drives in their computer do so because of backing up DVDs and Blu-Ray discs? It's not hoarders of pirated movies and software?

    JarredWalton kind of made my point for me I think; four years of his work on a technology site only uses 70 GB of his disk and all of his personal photos take 30 GB more. That's only 100 GB. Even with the addition of a 1024p24 video camera, it sounds like a 500 GB drive would buy years of video storage at a reasonable rate of accumulation thereof.

    Add another 500 GB drive for his Steam games and with a grand total of 1 TB it looks like JarredWalton, certainly a 'power user' if there ever was one, is completely covered in storage needs.
    Reply
  • mXan - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    A WTV movie recorded from TV is about 8GB.
    A Linux distribution is about 4GB.

    Every ISO of Windows, Office, Visual Studio, etc. is about that, and I can legally own them, since I'm an MSDN subscriber.

    GoG games downloads often range in the GB region, sometimes ~4GB (while other times they are 1MB! depends on the game).

    Every Virtual Machine you install requires a virtual hard drive, go figure 30-50GB each.

    I currently have 4TB storage at home, perfectly legal.
    Reply
  • JMC2000 - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    My Steam folder (which is on a 320GB drive) is almost 100GB, and that is just for 18 game and a couple of mods (Stalker: CS, Stalker: COP, Street Fighter 4 and UT3). If I was to install the 57 other games that I have purchased on Steam (publisher packs ftw!), I would more than likely take up more than 2/3 of the drive.

    Some of the space is occupied by legally backed up GBA/DS/GC games that I had, but were stolen.

    It is entirely possible to fill up even a 2TB with legally obtained material.

    If I had the space, I would back up all of the movies I own and stream them from a server, that way, I can keep the discs safely stored.
    Reply
  • kkwst2 - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    Please don't feed the trolls! :) Reply
  • bji - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    Well I admit that my comment was somewhat inflammatory because it presumed that most people could not legitimately fill up a drive without stealing content. I just could not imagine needing that much space for legitimate reasons but clearly I missed:

    1. People who 'back up' huge collections of legitimately owned DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. I can't personally imagine why you'd go through the trouble but I admit that for people who place high value on these items, having a back up is not an unreasonable way to use hard drive space.

    2. People who buy and play tens of games per year and have to keep them all on their hard drive all the time.

    3. People who collect huge digital home videos

    I think that most people don't fall into any of these camps but on an enthusiast site, certainly you'd find more people in one or more of these categories.
    Reply
  • DJMiggy - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    640K ought to be enough for anybody. Reply
  • dagamer34 - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    They back them up for quick access and so their kids don't ruin the disc. Heck, what ever happened to "innocent until proven guilty?" Reply
  • Jalek99 - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    "clearly I missed:"
    People who don't do things as you do.

    "most people don't fall into any of these camps"

    More assuming that YOU are the norm others should be measured against. Could it be that you are the outlier?

    People who play Warcraft alone likely have 15+ gb of space tied up at least before they add to it, and there seems to be quite a few current or former players who probably still have the thing installed. Add in any of several other games at 5-10gb and the numbers just climb.

    The less technical the user, the more likely it is that installed games or old programs will never be uninstalled.

    I started using a media server long ago and found it to be incredibly convenient with children and relatives' children as no media gets damaged or misplaced moving from room to room. When you purchase a television series on 35 DVD's or more, do you really want to keep those sorted instead of ripping them all and selecting from menus?

    As for the geekier side, website backups and developer database, ebooks (some of which cost as much as a bound book), scanned records (paperless office to the extent possible), and then email backups of receipts and registrations, and somewhere in there there's a photo or two and a partially complete thesis with copies of supporting documents. Between utilities and MSDN downloads is at least another 100gb.

    I also have shelves of DVD's and CD's, though I prefer not to have to access those. The books I'm not about to scan myself so if there's no digital alternative, they're also on a shelf.

    Shall I also explain my 60x40 shop contents and why it's full to the rafters or is that acceptable in your view?
    Reply
  • bji - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    OK well I officially stand corrected.

    I had always had this apparently ill founded belief that most people who had huge hard drive collections did so so that they could hoard downloaded movies, but I can see that there are many other legitimate uses that require huge amounts of space. I still don't know what the result would be if you polled all users instead of just computer enthusiast readers of Anandtech, but certainly for a not insignificant segment of the computer user space, large amounts of space are clearly useful.

    Sorry to have stirred up such a ruckus, I kinda knew I shouldn't have started in with an inflammatory comment like that.
    Reply

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